Polypharmacy app

A new way to access guidance

‘Polypharmacy’ just means ‘many medications’. It has often been applied to people who take five or more pills for their health conditions.

However, polypharmacy is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, people who have had a heart attack often take four different kinds of drugs – to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure. Polypharmacy only becomes a potential problem when some drugs are prescribed but no longer needed – sometimes because the dose is too high, or because the drugs cause side effects, or because the drugs are no longer having a beneficial effect.

To help doctors to understand when polypharmacy might be present, the NHS Scotland polypharmacy app was developed by NHS Education for Scotland and released in May 2016. In the first month it was available, it was downloaded almost six thousand times and three quarters of users revisited the app more than once.

The app is available as a web resource and is intended to help clinicians to decide how best to treat their patients. It doesn’t suggest that some medications should not be used – it simply gives doctors more information so that they can make sure their patients are informed of any potential risks. The app includes guidance for doctors on managing high risk medicines, common high risk situations, and assessing the cumulative risk of drug toxicity and adverse drug reactions as the number of a patient’s medicines increases.

To find out more visit http://www.polypharmacy.scot.nhs.uk/polypharmacy-guidance-medicines-review/